Welcome aboard to the time of year where we take a few weeks and look at a specific passage of scripture and dig in. For our Winter Bible Study this year we are looking at developing Christlike character. What are the proper character traits we need to possess as followers of Christ? First we need His presence. Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We experience the influence our presence makes frequently in our lives. Countless times I have heard, “the preachers here, watch what you say.” Or when I just come up and stand with a group of folks talking, I notice the subject of conversation changes, the language is less offensive or the words being expressed are followed by an apology. I understand the difference presence makes. I do appreciate other’s sensitivity to what they think I prefer to hear. That shows an awareness of our surroundings. That shows an indication that someone’s presence makes a difference.
How much should God’s presence change us? I have an interesting observation; it’s called “cleaning up well”. Many of us clean up well, but have you noticed the bar is slowly being lowered? We see it in our dress, we don’t dress as formal for special occasions as we used to. We see it in our language, we use words that were once inappropriate in certain company. We have dumbed down the need for being respectful and courteous. Personally, I think this is to our detriment, we are not better off for it. We have lost the art of making things special.
How do we resist the direction it seems everything is going? How do we stop the slide down the slippery slope to making everything insignificant? We choose to live differently. We choose Christ.
This passage is one we may be familiar with. Galatians 5:19-23. Today I want to focus on the first part of verse 22, the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Does He just show up or do you invite him? How exactly do I know the presence of the Holy Spirit is with me?
Galatians 5:22a; But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, …
It would not be possible to get into a complete revelation of the Holy Spirit in God’s Word here; that would take volumes. I will endeavor to hit some highlights. The Holy Spirit is the presence of God in our lives, he can be found in many places throughout God’s word, doing many things that fulfill God’s plan. One such place is our heart. He will be with each one that invites him in.
How is that possible? For that answer we need to look at the first three fruits; Love, Joy and Peace. We covered them in detail as we prepared for Christmas, but let’s take another look. The beginning is love, God’s word says;
1 John 4:9-10, 13; NLT; God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
… And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.
God initiated the change that takes place in each of us through the death and resurrection of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That is love. The byproduct of that love is joy and peace.
Joy is a different priority by which we live. Joy is not happiness but it is a fulfilment and satisfaction we have when we listen to the Holy Spirit and choose to live by the direction God provides through him. It is said joy exists when our priorities are right, God in the first place, others in second and you in third. Joy is not something we can have apart from God.
The byproduct of joy is peace. Because we decide to follow God’s direction and choose to make decisions that honor God, we can rest and be a peace. We don’t have to give another thought to our motives and actions. The contrast is when we try to figure things out and make decisions to produce a certain result, our mind is full of all the “what ifs” and we can never just let things be. That is not restful and peaceful.
When we place things in God’s hands, follow His directions and live a life that honors Him then we can rest and be at peace.
Matthew 11:28-30; NLT; Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
God didn’t expect us to know what true love, joy and peace looked like; He provided it for us as an example. When we experience it and receive it we will be motivated to share it with others. As God’s presence makes a difference in our lives, so will our presence make a difference in other’s lives. We will become the presence of God in the situations and environments that we live in. To have the first fruits of the Spirit exist in us we first have to accept the gift of salvation that God offers us through acceptance of the sacrifice Jesus made so that our shortcomings could be forgiven and we could be welcomed into the family of God.
1John 4:11-12; NLT; Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.